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Setting Goals: 8 Ideas to Ensure Effectiveness

8 Ideas to ensure you are setting goals that are effective

Setting goals is a large part of any manager’s job. If you are going to spend the time setting goals, make sure that they are going to be effective. We all know about SMART goals, but what about effective goals?

1.  Linked to business priorities

Your goals should:

  • be linked to the bigger goals of your organization or to key elements of your business strategy
  • solve a particular short-term problem which is “urgent but not important”
2.  Linked to results, not activities

Also expressed as “should be related to the job’s outputs, not inputs”, or “concerned with ends and not means”.

  • An activity: “conduct six training sessions for First Aiders on site”
  • A result: “train six First Aiders so that they pass the basic examinations by June 6th”
3.  Measurable and specific

Objectives should state clearly “how much”, “by what date”, “how well”, “at what cost”, “with what degree of accuracy”, “compared to what”. This is obviously easier for some jobs than for others. Even for service-orientated jobs, (always difficult to quantify) it is often possible to identify some valid performance indicators on which objectives can be based.

4.  Challenging – but attainable

Objectives should certainly be stretching, challenging and “developmental”. However, unattainable objectives will prove very de-motivating – even if you were the individual who originally proposed them. Keep an eye out for self-imposed objectives which are over-ambitious!

5.  Matching experience and capability

Objectives should not only be based on business goals, but should also be tailor-made for each individual. These should take into account their personal experience, skills, knowledge, planned development, etc.

6.  Updated

If changes outside the job-holder’s control occur which make the objectives significantly more or less achievable, the objectives should be reviewed and updated. Failing to do so leads to total cynicism about the whole principle of objective-setting and recognizing good or bad performance.

7.  Number of objectives

It is easy to set too many objectives. This could lead to priorities that aren’t clear for either party, as well as attention and focus that is diluted. There is no universally “correct” number – this will vary from job to job. When in doubt, aim for fewer rather than more.

8.  Compatible upwards/downwards/sideways

Check that each individual’s set of objectives is compatible with others. These should aligned with the manager’s own objectives, those of the job-holder’s colleagues and their subordinates.


The more effective you are at setting goals, the more chance you have of achieving what your business really needs to achieve! Want to know more about setting goals as well as working more efficiently and effectively?  Click here.